Gloriavale is a Christian community based about an hour away from Greymouth near Nelson Creek. They were on the TV a while ago – you can watch the documentary here.
Every 2 years they invite locals to a show with dinner at their community. They put on at least 20 shows and it’s quite a spectacle – but that’s because it’s trying to convince people to join them. With a closed community they are having problems with their ‘marriage arrangements’ – they need to expand their gene pool.
Safe in the knowledge that they would probably try to convince me to join their cult, I set forth, accidentally missing a turn and then having to take the back road by Bell Hill, which is more like driving across a mountain than a road. I arrived and was greeted by a very nice old man and shown a seat in a large auditorium – it must seat at least 200 people.
He told us all about their philosophy, mainly about how men should be present at the births of their children, and how any sort of birth control is EVIL! DON’T flush your unborn children down the toilet! He also introduced the community’s midwife, who appeared rather tired.
At each place there was a lovely setting
Then came dinner
The community is almost self-sufficient and they have huge commercial kitchens to feed everyone. It wasn’t bad!
Then came the entertainment. First – children singing.
Next was a ventriloquist. It struck me as rather old-fashioned and innocent.Next was the big show intro act featuring lots of costumed children climbing out of a treasure chest.I couldn’t get a decent picture of it but at one point they had babies dressed as parachutists descending from the ceiling. It was very cute.
The acts were on the theme of a journey through the past but there wasn’t really any narrative. Next was a sketch with cavemen.It was at this point that the closed and . . . . conservative . . .nature of the community came through. One of the jokes was ‘What’s the name of the chief with Parkinson’s?’
Wait, what? You can’t say that! That’s not appropriate!
Next was a musical item featuring a slapstick string quartet. It went on too long.
Next there was another journey to the past – past attitudes.
And then another very 70s musical comedy item that had the audience clapping along to the Blue Danube. Zzzzzzzzz. Fortunately the tedium was broken by . . . DESSERTThe cheesecake tasted . . . odd. They do make all there own dairy products here but the urban legend in town is that they use breastmilk. There were also plates of icecream spaced irregularly across the rows but fortunately I only had to share with one person rather than 5. It was also . . . odd – rather sticky. But not strange enough to put me off having about 4 scoops.
Next was a song and dance about animals. The costumes are all made on-site, and the quality is very good. However I don’t think they pay much heed to intellectual property rights.Next was a skit about the SpartansAnd then a song about railways. The singing was fine but the sets were amazing.
It was pretty impressive. I don’t know about you but I’ve never been to a show with a train on stage. Cats? No trains. Les Miserables? Just a bunch of French singing. Aida? Only a pyramid, which isn’t exactly mobile. So with a train this immediately puts them above all the big productions I know.
There was a short intermission in which 200 people queued up for 3 toilets (no locks on the doors . . .) and then it was back to it.
The first act was aeronautically themed.
During this act it turned out that the seats could actually rise and fall, and there were water sprayers in the ceiling to simulate flying through a storm. As good as the Motion Master at Rainbow’s End??
Well, no, but this is Greymouth after all.
After some coal cart dancing there was an act symbolising the growth of Britain during the Industrial Revolution. Rather cleaner than I remember 19th century London but who cares.Then a blatant rip-off of the chimney-sweepers’ dance from Mary Poppins.
Followed by a rip-off of the Castle on a Cloud song from Les Miserables, but with the names changed slightly so it doesn’t seem French. It finished with a mass assemblage on stage
Following this they obviously needed a set change and to fill in there was . . . a Tommy Cooper impersonator. Complete with accent. At this point all the lame skits made sense – the community started in the late 1960s, and they haven’t had contact with popular culture since then. As far as they are concerned, Tommy Cooper is extremely funny and popular. Even with jokes like:
‘Have your eyes ever been checked?’
‘No, they’re blue.’
After this was a war epic.
It included a big WW2 scene complete with a model Jeep and explosions.
The show is about 4 hours long so the next item – fruit cake – was well-received.There was some singing by the adultsand then a quite impressive act using shadows.So at this point I was reasonably satisfied with the evening’s entertainment, and was wondering why more people didn’t come. But then I struck the full half hour of Biblical extravaganza – in this case the story of Daniel.
In terms of biblical epic this would rate amongst the top – epically boring! They are in severe need of an editor because the pacing fell right off.
It finished with another word from the patriarch about not having birth control, and inviting people to have a look around the community to see how nice it was. On exiting you could take any amount of free literature, DVDs, CDs, etc about the cult, and everyone was given a small loaf of wholemeal bread and a block of cheese.
The cheese tasted . . . odd.